Heavier than a platoon of birds. More stylish than a plane. Those would be the two larger-than-life Knight Ridder signs, high atop corporate HQ. If you've flown into San Jose at night, they are hard to miss. By the numbers: Each sign is 13 feet tall, 94 feet wide and weighs 57,000 pounds.
Now they are a bit more of the KR name and legacy moving to the dustbin with the sale of the company to McClatchy. McClatchy says its keeping its HQ in Sacramento and will dispose of Knight Ridder's lease in due course.
Check out this little real estate piece in this morning's Merc, noting how the "Knight Ridder Building" may revert to its original name, the Fairmont Office Plaza. It makes note of the controversy around the sign going up in the first place, minus the color.
It was 1999 when Tony Ridder announced a move to the Bay Area from Miami in a phone call to company leaders. The early bet on the new HQ: Palo Alto. But there was the little thing called "The Bubble." Not only were office prices sky-high; premium space was not to be had.
Enter San Jose. Its leadership had fond memories of the '80s, the first go-go years of the Valley, when a young man named Tony Ridder just happened to be publisher of the Merc. In hundreds of calls, faxes and letters (!), San Jose convinced Tony to bring Knight Ridder "home" to San Jose. He agreed -- if he could get premium office space -- and prominent signage. The only things standing in the way of the move then -- after the city's powerful redevelopment operation was prevailed on to move -- were San Jose's sign ordinance and the FAA.
Seems that the new massive brushed aluminum signage was designed to sit atop the 17-story tower -- and in the midst of the flight path into the little hub we now like to call the Norm, the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. Frankfurt Balkind, the corporate identity company KR hired to conceive the sign, then came up with a nifty cantilevered design. The signs would hang off the side of the building, near the top, lowering its height. That won FAA approval.
The sign ordinance was a little trickier, with some people raising claims of the city playing favorites. Not a ton of coverage in the local daily; I recall the change in the ordinance appearing on page 5 of the Merc. Another lesson in roles and responsibilities of monopoly dailies.
Quoted in the story, Joseph Horwedel, San Jose's acting planning director, said the city tightened the sign regulations after the sign went up. ``You couldn't get it built again.''
Those of us working in the building were told to stay out of the building over the weekend the signs were installed, lest the installation should go awry and Knight Ridder New Media's employees turned to Internet dust. The street in front of the building was closed. Triumphally, the signs were maneuvered into place.
Somehow, as in all human enterprise, the way down will be less celebrated than the way up.